Tribune-Review, June 22, 2000

Principal to drop fiberglass rod
By Daniel Reynolds,

The principal of a Christian school charged with aggravated assault in the beating of a student told a district justice Wednesday that he no longer will use a fiberglass rod as a tool of discipline.

"It's done," said Stephen Lazzaro, principal of Faith Christian School in Wilkins Township.

District Justice Frank Comunale of Forest Hills ordered Lazzaro and Stephanie Galda, a teacher at the school, held for trial yesterday in connection with the alleged beating of Jeffrey Baur, 11, on March 27.

'A.J.' and his father leave office of District Justice Frank Comunale Wednesday in Forest Hills after a hearing for principal Stephen Lazzaro and teacher Stephanie Galda, who are accused of whipping the 11-year-old student at Faith Christian School in Wilkins Township. (Steven Adams/Tribune-Review photo)
According to Baur's testimony at yesterday's preliminary hearing, Lazzaro struck him four times with the rod because he had submitted an inadequate book report.

The boy suffered bruises and abrasions on his legs and buttocks, Wilkins Township police said.

Baur, who cried before composing himself and testifying, said he had been paddled on five or six previous occasions by Lazzaro, but it had always been with a wooden paddle. He told the court that he had not been injured in any of the previous paddlings.

Lazzaro, 45, of Turtle Creek, was held for court on charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy.

Galda, 35, of Sharpsburg, faces trial on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and criminal conspiracy because she allegedly held the boy in place over a chair while Lazzaro beat him.

After the whipping, Baur said, he threw himself on the floor and screamed. He said Lazzaro told him he would give him another stroke if he didn't stand up. After he stood up, Baur said he and Lazzaro prayed together that his homework would improve. The boy now attends Trafford Elementary School.

Comunale initially tried to reduce Lazzaro's charges, but objections by assistant District Attorney Ann Steiner resulted in a meeting in Comunale's chambers with Galda's and Lazzaro's attorneys.

After the meeting, Comunale ordered all charges be held for court.

The boy's mother, Rose Baur, who lives in Trafford, testified that she signed a release that permitted the school to use corporal punishment.

"If I knew they used a rod, I wouldn't have signed," she said.

She said the day that her boy was allegedly disciplined, he showed her his injuries. She said she then took photographs, called relatives and went to the Wilkins Township police.

"They can't beat a `B' into my child," she said.

Galda and Lazzaro received a show of support from dozens of friends and relatives, many of whom crowded into Comunale's small, overheated courtroom yesterday.

"My father's put a lot of time and a lot of love into a lot of families," said his son, Jonathan Lazzaro, 21, who attended the hearing along with his sisters Meredith, 20, and Libby, 18.

Jonathan Lazzaro said all three of them attended Faith Christian School, which in the last year had approximately 70 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Lazzaro said he and his sisters have achieved honors since leaving the school.

Comunale asked Stephen Lazzaro if it wouldn't be possible for parents who enroll their children in the school to do any future paddling if it were necessary.

Lazzaro told Comunale that the school's board is considering the idea.

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